GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR
On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar
By Paul Theroux - Print Edition - Section Front
McClelland & Stewart, - 496 pages, $34.99
In his 1992 travel book The Happy Isles of Oceania, prolific
In the opening pages of his new volume, Theroux reveals that he was having marital problems long before, in 1973. It was in that year that he embarked on the elaborate train trip across Europe and
It's a mellowed Theroux who sets out on this latest jaunt; with the blessing of his second wife, Sheila, he revisits the route he took for Bazaar. Now in his mid-60s (he turns 65 during the trip), he intends to look for changes while calling up the spectre of his younger self. Readers who like armchair travel will welcome Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, a blend of historical facts, cultural oddities and Theroux's inimitable first-hand impressions.
He leaves from
As he crosses Europe bound for
It's the graciousness of the people that stands out, whether in a military dictatorship like
He sees this spirit even in "Asia's biggest slum," in
Some of the best sections are Theroux's interviews with well-known writers: Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel laureate, in
The sex trade flourishes in most of the places Theroux visits. While finding that Singapore lives up to its reputation - "the most transformed of any city I had ever known in my life, a place twisted into something entirely new" - he does find "another Singapore ... twelve long streets of whorehouses, massage parlours, bars, knocking shops, and love hotels."
And on the streets of
You have to admire Theroux's fortitude as he walks doggedly across the border from
The best way to enjoy this latest adventure by one of the world's most entertaining travel writers is to relax, the way you would on one of those educational rides at Disney World. Follow Theroux wherever he goes; you'll be surprised and enthralled, and you'll learn a few things about countries you may never visit yourself.
Dave Williamson is a Winnipeg novelist who, in 2000, took a train - the